A stab in the heart for FC Bayern

It will be a season without titles and trophies. That fact was ascertained on the evening of March 15. Glorious FC Bayern Munich, who won the 2010 DFB Cup and the German national championship and reached the final of the Champions League, cannot add a further trophy to their extensive collection of gold and silverware displayed in beautiful cabinets. Great frustration reigned, with almost every face at the Allianz Arena showing deep disappointment -- with the exception, of course, of the blue-black opponent’s supporters. The Bavarians lost 3-1 (1-2) to Inter Milan in the round of 16 of the Champions League and were eliminated, even after their 1-0 win in Milan. The aggregate score was 3-3, but the Italian champions qualified for the quarter-finals by scoring more goals in their away leg. Although FC Schalke 04 reached the quarter-finals by defeating FC Valencia (1-1, 3-1), they sacked coach Felix Magath. Whoever had suggested in January that Bayern would be eliminated and the Gelsenkirchen club would go through would have been dismissed as a comedian by many football experts.

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After their elimination in the semi-finals of the DFB Cup by Schalke two weeks earlier, and the previous 3-1 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga, the hierarchy at Bayern Munich had decided coach Louis van Gaal would leave early at the end of the season, despite his contract running until 2012. Consequently Louis van Gaal experienced his last major match with Bayern with the repeat of the 2010 final against Champions League winners Milan. “That’s a stab in the heart. It is bitter, it hurts”, said the Chairman of the Board, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. A goal conceded two minutes from time ended the dream of once again being awarded the most valuable trophy in Europe, 10 years after the triumph over Valencia in the final in Milan.

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Thomas Mueller is desperate. Just one ball went in. FC Bayern Munich lost 3-2 to Inter Milan. Great disappointment reigned. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

“Goalscorer Pandev grabbed the glory for Inter when the Italians once again broke Bayern Munich’s heart”, read the English newspaper “The Sun”. Other observers even spoke of a miracle. For the Bavarians really did not deserve this defeat.

The evening could have been fantastic for van Gaal and his team. Bayern played magic football, they spun Inter around like a youth team, Mario Gomez and Thomas Mueller scored great goals after Samuel Eto’o had put Milan into a 1-0 lead, they combined perfectly, they totally enthused the 69,000 spectators – but for just one half only. At the end they had to face a poor recent record, having lost four of their last five games. But at FC Bayern the leadership do not act hastily. Rummenigge faced the waiting media pack and confirmed that the coach would of course remain in office and that there was no reason to bring the separation forward.

For once defence against attack

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In the hour after this bitter disappointment, the players disagreed and pointed accusing fingers at each other. Arjen Robben, who performed brilliantly, broke a taboo. He fiercely criticised the defenders. “It is not acceptable to concede three goals at home. We make too many simple, individual mistakes”. Captain Philipp Lahm couldn’t let that go. “We conceded just two big chances during the whole match. In attack we had seven chances to score. It’s not easy for the defence if you don’t score goals in the decisive stages”, the defender said. However, it was not a simple fight of attack against defence or vice versa. The entire team – and their coach too – lost. Robben as well as Lahm were right.

The defence didn’t look solid with the two opposing goals in the second half, and from the best positions the strikers gave the ball away too carelessly.

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A tackle between Lucio (left) and Bastian Schweinsteiger. After the match the Brazilian disclosed he did not rule out a return to FC Bayern. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

Gomez increased his goal tally to eight in the Champions League, the same as Eto’o and Lionel Messi (Barcelona), but while these rivals still have the opportunity to score more, Gomez will have to watch the next rounds on TV. Mueller, Robben and Franck Ribéry also failed to put the ball behind the line. Milan had four shots on goal and scored three times. The Bavarians had nine big chances and scored just twice.

Heynckes return as coach is possible

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Eight rounds before the end of the Bundesliga Bayern now have to try to qualify for the Champions League via the national championship competition. Third place leads to two qualifying matches for the Champions League, second and first place mean direct qualification. The title is out of sight with Dortmund leading by 16 points, with Leverkusen in second place, seven points ahead of Bayern. That’s a gap that could be closed, particularly as Bayer Leverkusen have to play in Munich on April 17. On the other hand Leverkusen have won nine of their 13 away matches, while the Bavarians disappointed again and again. Their defence must improve in the Bundesliga also.

In addition Bayern have to play Moenchengladbach (April 2), Schalke (April 30) and Stuttgart (May 14) at home, and travel to Freiburg (March 19), Nuremberg (April 9), Frankfurt (April 23) and St. Pauli Hamburg (May 7).

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Louis van Gaal is deeply disappointed. FC Bayern will conclude the season without titles and trophies, and the Dutchman must leave early. (Photo: GES/Augenklick)

At least third-placed Hannover, just two points ahead prior to the 27th round, should be caught. A new, old era is expected to begin in July. Jupp Heynckes, 65, still employed by Leverkusen, could possibly take over the helm at Munich once again. And another fact is also clear: The Bavarians will win titles and trophies again.